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Judge Supports Jury Recommendation

A judge determined Nov. 2 that former deputy U.S. Marshal John Ludwig will serve the entire sentence recommended by the jury in July. This summer a jury found Ludwig guilty of voluntary manslaughter and use of a firearm in commission of a murder. The jury recommended three and a half years for the shooting death of his wife, Karen Ludwig. The gun conviction carries a mandatory three-year sentence to be served consecutively with any other sentence, bringing Ludwig's total sentence to six and a half years. The jury could have recommended a maximum sentence of 13 years for the two convictions.

"I feel I've got to honor what the jury did," Circuit Court Judge James H. Chamblin told Ludwig during his sentencing. "I see no mitigating circumstances to suspend part of the jury sentence."

Under Virginia law, Chamblin could only reduce the sentence recommended by the jury. After he has completed his sentence, Ludwig will be monitored for an additional three years.

LUDWIG, WHO IS a former police officer in Howard County, Md., and was in the Army for more than six years, was charged with murder and use of a firearm in commission of a murder for the shooting death of his wife of 21 months, Karen Ludwig, July 4, 2005. John Ludwig, 52, called 911 around 8:30 a.m. July 6, 2005, the day after his birthday, and admitted to the shooting.

During the trial, Ludwig's attorney, Alexander Levay, said the shooting was self-defense as Karen Ludwig had pointed the loaded gun the couple kept under a pillow at her husband during an argument the night of the incident. Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Robert Vernail said the shooting was premeditated and the five times John Ludwig shot his wife, twice in the side, twice in the heart and once in the face at close range, showed a malicious intent.

AT THURSDAY'S sentencing Levay argued that the jury's conviction on using a firearm in commission of a murder should be set aside because Ludwig was not found guilty of committing murder. Levay said that the answer to the jury's question while they were deliberating resulted in an inconsistent conviction. Jurors were told they could find Ludwig not guilty of murder and still find him guilty of the firearm charge

"We know that it's contradictory to the law," Levay said.

Vernail argued that the question was answered properly and that Levay was speculating about where jurors were in their deliberations when the question was asked.

"You have to analyze the answer to the question the same way you would analyze jury instructions," he said. "You can't assume if the answer [to their question] was no they would have found him not guilty."

BOTH VERNAIL and Chamblin said inconsistencies can occur in verdicts and are not always sufficient reason to set aside a conviction.

"There are very few cases like this one where it would be reasonable for jurors to return a verdict from first-degree murder all the way to not guilty," Chamblin said. "If [Ludwig] was only being charged on the firearms charge the evidence is overwhelming."

When giving his final ruling, Chamblin told Ludwig the result of his trial could have been much worse.

"[This decision] was favorable to you," he said. "You could have been found guilty of a lot more serious offense."